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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 4 October 2008
Elizabeth Chadwick's superb new novel, The Time of Singing, details the life of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk during the time of Henry II and his sons. Chadwick's ability to bring history to life is never more apparent than it is in this illustrious depiction of the political and human world of medieval England.

Bigod, who was a companion of William Marshal, the subject of two of Chadwick's earlier novels, is first found as a young man who defies his father's rebellion and must come to terms with the type of man he will be. Bigod must constantly walk a narrow path in order to receive what is rightfully his, and the family drama of fighting for the inheritance follows him throughout his life. Interwoven in Roger's story is that of his wife, Ida, who was once the reluctant mistress of Henry II, and whose love and support provide Bigod with the stability he didn't experience early on in life. Chadwick expertly weaves fact into fiction as we see how Roger and Ida overcome the obstacles of the turbulent times in which they lived.

Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has given us an outstanding glimpse into the lives of actual people who lived so long ago. The writing is engrossing and the plot is well paced. I could easily envision all the characters and events, and as usual, I was sad to let go of my medieval friends when I closed the last page. Storytelling at its finest! Highly, highly recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 October 2008
The Time of Singing retells the story of Roger Bigod, son of Hugh Bigod Earl of Norfolk, who joined the younger Henry in his revolt against his father Henry II. When the revolt fails Hugh loses the Earldom and lands and when he dies there is a bitter dispute over the right to inherit the Earldom between Roger and his step-mother and her two sons. While Roger serves Henry and bides his time to claim his Earldom young Ida de Tosney arrives in court as the King's ward. Henry is smitten and has other plans for Ida and he makes her his mistress and she eventually bears him a son, William. Unhappy with her position as mistress to the king, Ida casts her hopes on Roger and Henry allows them to marry -- although she must leave her son behind.

Henry still withholds the Earldom, but he does restore some of their lands and Ida and Roger build a life and family together and begin rebuild Framlingham Castle to greater heights than it was before. Once Richard I takes the crown at the death of Henry the Earldom is restored to Roger, and the rest of the book recounts their lives as they struggle to keep everything they hold dear as the battle lines are drawn during Richard's absence on crusade and subsequent kidnapping threatens to bankrupt England.

A very enjoyable surprise for me was the appearance of my personal favorite hero, William Marshal - I did not expect him at all, or to feature so prominently - but it appears Bigod and Marshal were contemporaries and friends. Another big surprise was Ida's son William - who readers of fiction set during the reigns of John and Henry III will recognize as William Longespée, and I have to admit many of my favorite moments in the book were of William and his attempts at a relationship with his mother, Roger and their children.

While I enjoyed this book very much, this is not an action packed, page turning, sit on the edge of your seat type of book, but one to sit back and savor like a fine red wine or a box of chocolates (or both!!). As always with Chadwick's books, the way she brings the medieval period to life in such a graceful and effortless way, be it the sights, sounds, smells, food, clothes and battles is just awesome. As quoted on some of her book jackets, the next best thing to time travel. 4.5/5 stars.
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Ms Chadwick's latest novel draws additional historical figures from the shadows of the 12th century and imbues them with vibrant life. Roger Bigod, is the disputed heir to the earldom of Norfolk from approximately 1177. This dispute, which involved Roger's stepmother and stepbrothers, commenced during the reign of Henry II and extended for over a decade before being resolved by Richard I. The dispute brings Roger to court, where he meets Ida de Tosney who is Henry II's young mistress and the mother of his son. Eventually, Ida and Roger marry and while the marriage is a consequence of mutual attraction, it has its costs and burdens.

Ms Chadwick's greatest strength is her ability to combine historical accuracy and characters whose actions can be viewed from a contemporary perspective without any loss of authenticity. This accuracy is important to Ms Chadwick, and it is conveyed to the reader in a way which, while it seems effortless, is a tribute to detailed research. We may not know, with great certainty and at this distance, exactly how Roger and Ida interacted with each other on a personal basis but the novel largely accords with the known facts and provides a fascinating insight into a particularly turbulent time in English history. The medieval code of chivalry carried with it both burdens and costs as well as benefits and privileges.

For me, an added attraction is the links between the Bigods and another of my personal heroes: William Marshal. I was aware of Roger Bigod before reading this novel but not especially interested in him. Now I find that Ms Chadwick has - yet again - introduced me to an historical character about whom I need to know more. Fortunately, I am provided with a select bibliography which gives me a great starting point.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on 4 January 2009
There are few certainties in life: you will get gray hair, you will eventually turn into your mother and you can't go wrong with an Elizabeth Chadwick book!! I mean this woman is GENIUS at writing medieval novels! You can always expect (and get) brilliance at dialogue, character development and interactions, description of medieval life - the scenes are so beautifully written, just close your eyes and you're there.

There are many literary couples that stay in your mind long after closing the book on their story; Jamie and Claire, Llewelyn and Joanna, and now we can add Roger and Ida. A true love match. Chadwick brings to life one of the most charming love stories from the medieval era as only she can. The best parts of the novel for me were the scenes with Roger, Ida and their family - I don't think I've ever felt so much like a fly on the wall as I did in this novel. The mention of Roger's hats (which EC recently posted about) and Ida's sewing abilities were an extra glimpse into their lives that we as mere readers aren't usually admitted into. I loved that Chadwick included bits about Ida's son, William, growing up at court and the insights into what type of a boy he turned into and then watching William getting acquainted with his mother again was interesting.

There is an added bonus of meeting the studly William Marshall in this novel as well. Eat up ladies!

I highly recommend this novel to um, well, everyone.
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on 27 May 2014
This is a fantastic series and I am hugely grateful to the writer for her books about these characters and this period in history which I knew so little about. Very readable and I appreciate her comments at the end of the books where she explains which bits are absolutely true and which are less true. I like the way that she writes from so many different angles such that you get to read a little about someone in one book and then find that the writer has written another whole book based on the character. Absolutely too good to be true. A history reader's "sweet shop"!
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on 2 April 2013
Really you have to start at the beginning of the Marshall saga first go and start this journey with William Marshalls father this family were involved with much of our early English History and the storyline is just about as true to the times..... as we can be led to appreciate in our own times.
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on 17 October 2010
Having read several of Elizabeth Chadwick's other books I found this slightly disappointing. She is normally a pacy, exciting writer who writes beautifully and convincingly recreates the times of which she writes so that the reader is transported effortlessly into the minds and world of the characters that she portrays. She has achieved this in the present novel but it lacks the unity and the excitement of the other works I have read. A lot of the time she over-sentimentalizes by dwelling for too long on the feelings of her main characters slowing the pace and spoiling the flow of the narrative. The character delineation is excellent but by there is a marked lack of direction in this book compared to her other novels. Worth reading for its link with the very excellent series that she has written about William Marshall which I found totally unputdownable!!
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on 4 April 2014
Elizabeth Chadwick must write the best 'lighter weight' history novels around.
Don't take 'lighter weight' as a criticism. It is not.
I love her books. They are a great read. They give a good taste of history and then if they hold your interest you can then delve deeper
with other 'heavier weights'
I particularly like the William Marshal books depicting one of history's great English ( perhaps not quite English ) real life characters.
Chadwick bought him and that period to life for me and I then felt the need to research his life further. This lead to an interest in Henry the second, Richard the Lion Heart and that whole period
William Marshal - The Greatest Knight , is a 'must read'. Check it out.
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2013
This is another one of the author's novels set in late 12th century Angevin England. The Marshals feature in it but are not the main focus. This one concentrates on Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and his wife Ida. It is more of a romantic story about their early lives and tribulations, but interesting in that their relationship was much more distant in To Defy a King (written after this, but which I read first). The main focus here is on the family quarrel where Roger is challenged for his Earldom by his half brothers, the sons of his father by his second wife, who are a sorry pair (though the younger one Will eventually comes out from under his brother's shadow and is reconciled to Roger's side of the family). It is not one of Elizabeth Chadwick's particularly significant historical reads, but is as colourful and engaging as ever and well written, so still deserves 4/5.
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VINE VOICEon 19 November 2013
Based on a factual character, rated probably the greatest knight in history, who rose from humble beginnings through a long life, to rule England and protect a boy king when his guidance was most valuable and needed, William Marshal's story is a worthwhile read for anyone, covering such a turbulent period in history. Elizabeth Chadwick is an English writer recently voted No 3 in the Washington Historical Society's top ten and deservedly so. Her research is meticulous, her narrative is engaging, and her characters come to life through the pages of her novels, all of which adorn my bookshelf. A totally absorbing novel.
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